Monday, October 29, 2012

"The Natural Environment ... God's Gift to Everyone"

I spent my teens in the '60s, and remember the first Earth Day, back in 1970. I also remember seeing truck-sized rafts of suds floating down the Mississippi River in the mid-'70s.

About three decades later, I'm still concerned about environmental issues.

That doesn't mean that I think humanity is a cancer on 'Mother Earth,' that 'Mother Nature' is dying, or that we'll all be killed by whatever today's fashionable crisis is.

Green, Above and Beyond the Call of Reason

I'd spent quite a bit of time on college campuses by the time I became a Catholic. I had gotten used to some colorful varieties of 'environmentalism' and folks who seemed convinced that:
  1. Human beings were killing Nature
    • And shouldn't exist
  2. Humanity could continue to exist if
    • There are a lot fewer of us
    • We live 'sustainably,' like we did before the
      • Industrial revolution
      • Iron age
      • Late stone age
  3. Technology is bad
Not all strident environmentalists believed 'all of the above,' and some had other sincerely-held beliefs. Sadly, the wacky side of environmental awareness made it difficult to take the steady stream of alleged crises seriously.

Part of my problem was that I remembered when terribly serious folks were concerned about fluoridated water and other 'commie threats' - - -

- - - Which reminds me of science, junk and otherwise; which is another set of topics:
Where was I?

Environmental concerns, real and imagined. Getting a grip. Right.

Environmentalism that Makes Sense

Don't get me wrong: I think:
  • It's stupid to dump raw sewage in water we plan to drink
  • Recycling is basically a good idea
  • Wasteful use of resources is a bad idea
But my background made it easy for me to assume that 'environmentalism' was a borderline-crackpot set of beliefs.

Then I started running into this sort of thing:
"...Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 339)
There's a reasonable approach to 'animal rights,' too: and that's another topic. (Catechism, 2416, 2418) (August 17, 2009)

Benedict XVI's "Caritas in Veritate" discusses concerns about economic development, technology, human development; and managing the environment:
"Today the subject of development is also closely related to the duties arising from our relationship to the natural environment. The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)

Information Age America isn't Victorian England

The idea that religion, Christianity in particular, is the root of all problems is - yet more topics. I've posted about Tennyson, Lennon, and getting along, before. (April 18, 2012)

Then there's malignant virtue and America's perennial 'End Times Bible prophecies.' Still more topics. (December 9, 2010, June 14, 2011) The Church takes the Last Judgment seriously. (May 21, 2011) Good grief. More topics.

I don't buy into the 'religion kills' attitude. But I've run into enough folks whose enthusiasm for hatred makes that attitude seem reasonable:
I think much of today's assumptions about religion - held by both the 'religion kills' and the 'everything I don't like is Satanic' sort - stems from a conniption among gentlemen of another century:
Victoria hasn't been Queen of England for generations, the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' is long over, and I think it's time to acknowledge that 'the good old days' are gone.

And thank God for that. (June 2, 2011)

Responsibility is No Accident

I've run into folks who seem convinced that Christians want to destroy nature because God says so. Maybe there's a preacher somewhere who says that.

God told our first parents to "fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:26-30) But - and this is important - we're stewards, not owners. I've been over this before.
And see:
I recognize that folks can believe that God shouldn't exist, and still want to 'save the rainforest.'

But once I admit that God exists, and created the visible world: acting irresponsibly toward this creation simply isn't an option:
"...When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)

Getting a Grip About Nature

Here's why it's a good idea to keep God in mind, together with the idea that we don't own nature:
"...If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God's creation...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
Yes, we have 'dominion' over the visible world. But it's not ours to destroy.

Simple self-interest should show that we shouldn't make a mess of the natural world. A key word there is "should." Moving on.

We have a responsibility to folks who haven't been born yet, and to the owner of this world. I don't think that means that any use of natural resources is wrong. We've got brains, hands, and a knack for finding new uses for the things in this world. I doubt very much that God made us this way 'by mistake.'

"...A Design of Love and Truth"

Worshiping nature, treating the creation as if it is God, is not an option. That would be idolatry, and a very bad idea. (Catechism, 2112-2114) (April 15, 2012)

But recognizing the designs and beauties of nature, and their implications, makes sense. I'll get back to this next week, God willing:
"...Nature expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
Finally, here's a few verses from Romans, including the one cited:
"For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.

"Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse;

"for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened."
(Romans 1:19-21)

More posts about "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth)
"Caritas in Veritate"

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.